A year from lockdown: shared learning from impact of visiting restrictions in older people’s care homes – 23 March 2021 event

At the year from lockdown event on 23 March 2021, multiple stakeholders contributed their knowledge and learning, as researchers, practitioners, policy makers, sector representatives, as well as families with first hand experience of restrictions.

The aim was to share, listen and reflect on what we have learnt, and to think about what we could take from these difficult experiences into the future.

At the date of the event, visiting restrictions to care homes had been in place for a year, with significant impact on family carers as well as residents. Just prior to the event, new Scottish Government guidance had been issued, dated 24 Feb 2021: Open with care – supporting meaningful contact in care homes, with hopes that this would let relatives back in.

We were delighted to have contributions from the following, and have recorded their presentations, both a legacy of the event and a historic marker of the evidence, views’ and issues being debated – a year from lockdown.

Lynn Jamieson (Professor of Sociology, Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh) and Neil Quinn (Reader in Social Work and Co-Director of the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Health Policy)
Dr Donald Macaskill (CEO, Scottish Care)
Jo Hockley (University of Edniburgh) and Anne F. Rees (Nursing Care Home Manager)
Nancy Gillespie and Natasha Hamilton
Claire Drummond (Service Manager)
Iona Colvin (Chief Social Work Adviser, Scottish Government)

Since the event?

Practically all care home residents have received two vaccinations, with it reported on 1 Feb 2021, that 98% had received both jabs.

By 1 Feb 2021 Scottish Government announced that routine indoor visiting of care home residents would resume from early March with care providers supporting residents to have up to two designated visitors each and one visit a week for each visitor. 20 Feb

Scottish Government guidance (24 Feb 2021) has been followed with a letter to the sector, dated 15 July 2021, to help increase contact and activities with residents and day care services in care homes, moving to and past level 0.

Currently there are no plans to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for care home staff or visitors in Scotland, despite reports of this being considered at Westminster. That said, as of 15 June, the vaccination dashboard from Public Health Scotland details that 100% of care home staff have received both doses.

Nevertheless, while it is undoubtedly true that contact between care home residents and their families has substantially increased, care home relatives report that guidance is still being interpreted or applied, differently across the sector. This may be in relation to: what constitutes ‘essential visitor status’; what happens to essential visits in scenarios where there is a positive covid test result in a home; how many ‘designated visitors’ are allowed and what flexibility is permitted in changing who goes on this list; how many visits are allowed (and where and for how long); and what social distancing measures are expected and whether people are/aren’t able to hug, hold hands (gloved or un-gloved). Campaigners criticise, what some term a ‘postcode lottery’ or discriminatory practices, with care homes residents and relatives having fewer freedoms and rights than others in the population. For this reason, Care Home Relatives Scotland continues to campaign for Anne’s Law, with legislation providing care home residents the right to see at least one caregiving relative regardless of lockdown or levels.

Care Home Relatives Scotland are also eager to see that care home residents and their families benefit from the same easing of restrictions as everyone else, with the government working towards lifting all covid restrictions on 9 August 2021.

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